Who's Your Girl Crush?

Today in The Daily Beast, writer Doree Shafrir examines the phenomenon of the "fantasy girl crush," the woman who's slightly cooler or more successful than you, and who you kind of want to be.

It's risky territory, as there's a fine line between crushing and actual jealousy. And Shafrir acknowledges that the cultivation of a girl crush isn't always simple. She writes,

[A]s we grow older, finding women to look up to becomes, like everything else, a trickier minefield to navigate. As a journalist in New York City, I've found that media is an especially fraught industry for these kinds of relationships. Looking for a formal "mentor" seems forced; worshiping someone from afar, creepy; deciding one of your friends or co-workers is really cool and doing everything she does, single white female-y. And frenemies and backstabbers lurk behind every door. The intern you thought was interested in learning the ropes from you is actually just interested in taking your job.

However, the bulk of her article turns out to be, not a Lucinda Rosenfeld-style envy-fest, but a sweet exploration of women's admiration for other women. She quotes attorney Jasmine Moy, who says, a girl crush is "pretty much any woman who is funny and smart and talented and successful and pretty. Crushes are the things you get if you're not the 'I'm jealous, therefore I hate them' kind of person." Several women she interviews report crushes on author/illustrator Luann Shapton. Shapton is an art director at The New York Times, a novelist, an Elle columnist, and the co-owner, with her fiance, of "a beautifully restored farmhouse in North Salem, N.Y." There are plenty of ingredients for haterade here, but Shafrir's interviewees offer only love. "She just seems to have a really lovely life," says one Shapton admirer.

Shapton, for her part, is gracious in crush-dom. She says,

I've received a few emails from younger women which is nice, but weird since I certainly don't feel like I have anything figured out. If they ask for career advice, I try to explain that I didn't really plan a career-I was able to make up my jobs along the way, and I advise them to do the same. I didn't ever decide on a single course of action. But that basically makes you-for a long time-broke, obscure, somewhat unreliable and scattered. Trying to answer the question 'What do you do?' would give me hives.

It wouldn't be that hard to make fun of this, to imagine Shapton lounging around her farmhouse, saying "oh, this old thing?" But one of the great canards of armchair sociology is the idea that women don't help each other, that the glass ceiling stays in place because women are busy catfighting each other beneath it. So it's nice to read about women being nice, and not fake-nice either, but actually sincerely in awe of and respectful of one another.

If I had to pick a celebrity girl crush, it would probably be Zadie Smith — fantastically successful young novelist, married to another successful young novelist, beautiful, likes Fawlty Towers, and once toured with They Might Be Giants. But one of my biggest girl crushes was not on a celebrity — it was on a girl who transferred to my college when I was a senior. She had complicated, impressive hair, dressed like a visitor from a more awesome universe, had her own website, published a zine as a teenager, wrote fiction, took photos, and after graduation moved into an apartment with her boyfriend (now husband), where they read Eliot to one another and covered the walls with art by their friends. I was sure she was too cool to ever be friends with me. Years later, after we'd already become close, she confessed she had thought the same thing about me. Now we both have our own websites, and although I think she still has better hair, I get to give her advice about teaching and making clam pasta. Sometimes the best girl crushes go both ways.

Fantasy Girl Crushes [Daily Beast]